by Bruce A. Smith
Daniel “Danny” Morse was honored by his family, friends, and community members in a memorial service held on 204th St near where he was killed by a drunk driver in 2009.
Danny, 14, was struck on December 27 while riding a new skateboard that he had received for Christmas.
The service was hosted by the Tacoma-Pierce County DUI Victims’ Information Panel, an organization tasked with providing counseling groups for drivers arrested on charges of drinking while impaired – either on drugs or alcohol. This agency posted two signs on 204th in Daniel’s memory along with additional signage encouraging drivers not to drive while impaired.
“This tragedy was 100% preventable,” said Sharon Reynon, Director of the T-PCDUIVIP at the unveiling. “Daniel never had a chance to graduate from high school, see his 21st birthday, or grow into an old man. Yet, his life still has a voice, as these signs save lives. I am convinced of that.”
Daniel’s mother, Evelyn Machovski, also spoke at the service.
“Danny was funny,” she said. “He was delightful to be around, and these signs will save other families from going through the pain that we have been through.”
Daniel’s family later said that his older brother, Christopher Lathrop, had also been killed by a drunk driver several years prior in southern California. Family members said that Christopher had just graduated from high school and was returning home from work when he was struck by a drunk dirver and killed in a “horrible” crash, the details of which are not fully known.
“But no one was charged in the incident,” Daniel’s aunt told the Mountain News.
Reynon also told the assembled that she had lost her teen age daughter, Alicia, to a drunk driver several years prior.
“She was a passenger in a car driven by an impaired driver. She was killed just by Rogers High School,” Reynon told the Mountain News.
17,000 Americans died annually at the hands of impaired drivers, Reynon told her audience.
“It doesn’t have to happen,” Reynon stressed. “It is so preventable,” adding, “The signs, the commemorations, they all help you get through it.”
Daniel’s brothers, Michael and Nicholas Lathrop, assisted in the unveiling ceremony, and were supported by their stepfather, Ralph Machovski
Members of the Graham Fire and Rescue Department formed an honor guard, and were joined by several deputies of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, along with their chaplain, Bob Ihler.
“These signs are dedicated to Daniel’s honor,” Ihler said.
A touching moment was delivered by Ms. Reynon in her parting words:
“Daniel will be remembered by everyone who sees these signs,” Reynon said, adding, “Feel free to add flowers at any time.”
Note: After the ceremony, everyone was invited to coffee and snacks at the Oasis Coffee shop in the Sunrise Medical Plaza. There, Ms. Reynon told the Mountain News that many deputies of the PCSD have told her that they are apprehending an alarming number of drivers stoned on marijuana now that the state laws have been amended.
More troubling, Reynon also said that an impaired driver drives drunk or stoned 68 times on average before he or she gets “pulled over by the cops.”
She also told the Mountain News that there are about 40 memorial signs erected throughout Pierce County to honor victims of impaired drivers. Daniel Morse’s signs in Graham are the seventh such memorials Ms. Reynon has placed in the past four years.
Lastly, the T-PC DUI Victims’ Information Panel is an organization where motorists convicted on drunk or drugged driving charges are remanded, required to attend discussion groups where they hear from – and talk with – the families and friends of those killed by impaired drivers. It is a highly respected program, and is a template for similar efforts to curb imparied driving throughout the nation.
Danny Morse, photo courtesy of his family
Christopher Lathrop, photo courtesy of his family
I am so sorry this has happened.
Life has certainly given this family its share of grief and challenges.